TERRE HAUTE —
The long debate over the membership of Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference is coming to a close.
The MIC principals gathered for their regular monthly meeting Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis, and voted to replace North and South in the eight-team conference beginning in the 2014-15 seasons, Carmel High School Principal John Williams told the Tribune-Star today. Lawrence Central and Pike high schools will replace North and South.
Danny Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, requested a hearing for explanation of the decision, and that session immediately followed the MIC meeting.
The increased cost of transportation associated with the 70-mile distance between the two Terre Haute schools and the six current Indianapolis-area MIC schools was the reason given for the change, Tanoos said. The vote was 6-2, with the Terre Haute schools in the minority, he added.
“There’s been a lot of conversation over the years, and really it comes down to one thing — the travel,” Williams said. The Indy-to-Terre Haute road trips have been a challenge for the league since North and South began competing in its ranks in 1997-98, he added, and the situation “exacerbated with the rising price of gas.”
Also, the hour-plus drive time caused other problems. “There’s some academic concerns, with the sports that have to travel in the middle of the week,” Williams said.
But the transportation issues effect North and South more so than the Indianapolis schools, Tanoos said.
“We have to travel to Indianapolis many more times than they [individually] have to travel to Terre Haute,” Tanoos said. “And we’re all in the same economic boat, and continue to find ways to pay for travel to conference games. But we understand where they’re coming from [on the issue].”
He also pointed out that, when the conference formed, the Indianapolis schools courted North and South as members.
Carmel, Ben Davis, Warren Central, Lawrence North, Center Grove and Indianapolis North Central constitute the Indy-area portion of the MIC. Lawrence Central and Pike are also located in that same metropolitan region, and will leave their current conference — Conference Indiana — for the MIC. The geographic proximity of those two MIC-similar schools made the switch logical, Williams said.
“If [North and South] were inside the doughnut of Indianapolis, this would not be happening,” Williams said. He praised the Terre Haute schools as outstanding members of the league. “It certainly had nothing to do with the quality of the Terre Haute schools, or their functioning in the conference,” he said.
Pike and Lawrence Central “bring the same kind of quality programming leadership the Terre Haute schools have,” Williams said.
For North and South, the difficulty of competing with the MIC’s traditional powerhouse programs — particularly in football — has long stirred questions of whether staying in the conference was wise. Since 1999, MIC schools have won all but two Class 5A state football championships. Pike and Lawrence Central both maintain strong football teams.
Ironically, Terre Haute North posted the best MIC football record ever by the Terre Haute schools this past season, finishing 4-3 in league games. Three MIC victories was the high for either local school prior to the Patriots’ 2012 performance. Also this fall, two Terre Haute runners — Chanli Mundy of North, and Jackson Bertoli of South — scored breakthrough individual victories in the MIC girls and boys cross country championships.
Earlier this fall, Vigo County School Corp. superintendent Danny Tanoos told the Tribune-Star that the corporation — aware of the impending MIC shakeup — was pursuing affiliations with different conferences.
“I know they’re working hard to see where their next step is, and what’s best for their programs,” Williams said.
In October, the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference turned down acceptance of North and South into that league, which currently includes eight Evansville-area schools. This week, Tanoos spoke with an official from a southern Indiana conference, which may need new members. If that prospect doesn’t materialize, the Vigo County schools will keep looking.
“We’d hope to have something resolved in the next few months,” Tanoos said. “The worst scenario would be to play as independents.”
North and South endured the scheduling complexities as independents from the early 1980s, after they left the SIAC, until joining the MIC nearly a generation later.
The MIC scheduling will be intact in the 2013-14 school year, Tanoos said. He also noted that several MIC schools have longterm scheduling contracts with North and South, “and we’re going to hold them to those, unless they want to buy them out.”
See Saturday’s Tribune-Star print edition for more details.